The passing of forty-eight hours found Remus staying with the Weasleys, trying desperately to fill the hours until Sirius’ trial, still a week away. Remus had read once that if sharks ever stopped swimming they died, and that’s what he felt now: a frantic need to keep moving, keep doing, like he could stay one step ahead of his fears and emotions that way. Remus was too agitated to eat and certainly unable to sleep, until finally Molly resorted to drugging his tea.
He awoke in an unfamiliar room, and slowly identified it as Bill’s, who Remus supposed was sharing with Charlie for the moment.
Bright lads, the both of them, he thought idly. Quite a handful, just like James and Siri…
Remus suddenly felt as though he was being crushed under an unbearable weight and couldn’t draw a breath. He struggled to sit up and place his feet on the floor, cradling his head in his hands and scrunching his toes in the carpet to try and bring himself back to reality. He succeeded only in making himself dizzy and began to cry helplessly, still groggy from whatever Molly had snuck into his tea.
He heard the door creak open and looked up to see one of Molly’s younger children wander in, clutching a toy wand in one hand and sucking the thumb of the other hand. Remus and the toddler eyed each other warily. The Weasley finally withdrew his thumb.
“Grown-ups shouldn’t cry,” he said in a remarkably clear yet suspicious voice.
“Grown-ups can do as they please,” Remus told him, voice gravelly from pain and sleep. “Which one are you again?”
“Fred!” the child announced promptly. Remus raised an eyebrow at the large ‘G’ on ‘Fred’s’ jumper. One of the twins, then. Remus hauled himself to his feet and offered his hand to ‘Fred’, who took it gravely.
“Why don’t you take me to your mother, hmm?” Remus tried not to wrinkle his nose at the feel of ‘Fred’s’ still-damp hand.
“Accio Mum!” ‘Fred’ chanted solemnly, pointing his toy wand at the doorway. Remus managed a dry chuckle, which was cut off abruptly when Molly bustled through the door a moment later.
“There you are!” she glared down at her offspring. “Bothering Mr. Lupin! And with your brother’s wand again!”
Remus glanced between Molly and the child as Molly reached down to pluck the not-toy wand from ‘Fred’s’ hand and suppressed another chuckle.
That boy’s going to be a holy terror at Hogwarts, Remus mused to himself.
Just then the oldest Weasley boy appeared in the doorway, balancing one of the two youngest Weasleys on his hip and with the other twin trailing along by clutching his robe.
“Can’t you keep ahold of this, Bill?” Mrs. Weasley demanded, waving Bill’s wand at the harried adolescent.
“Sorry, Mum,” Bill grinned, taking it from her and slipping it back into his pocket.
“Take them back downstairs and for goodness sake keep an eye on them,” Molly waved him back out the door.
“Not like I’m not trying,” Remus heard Bill grumble as Molly shut the door behind them.
Remus sank back down onto the bed.
“Good lord, Molly,” he groaned as the room spun, then steadied. “What did you give me?”
“Knock-Out Drops,” Molly confessed. “But they were the children’s brand from Percy’s last fever, and I may have overdosed you.”
“I’ll be all right,” he waved off Molly’s concern. As all right as I can be, he thought silently. “What’s been happening?”
“Not much, I’m afraid,” Molly sighed. “Dumbledore has been to Azkaban to see Sirius and reassure him that he only has to last until the trial.”
“He’s in bad shape, isn’t he?” Remus asked grimly.
“He’ll be fine,” Molly replied quickly, but the tightness of her mouth told Remus she was lying.
“Where is Harry?” Remus asked instead.
“Still with Alice and Frank for now,” Molly twisted her hands together tightly. “But it isn’t safe to have both boys in the same place. There’s still talk of sending him to Lily’s sister.”
“No!” Remus shot to his feet, wobbling dangerously. “You can’t! Voldemort’s gone, isn’t he?!”
“It seems that way,” Molly hedged. “But no one knows for sure, Remus…”
“They can’t take him away now!” Remus cut her off. “His parents are gone, they’re DEAD, Molly, Sirius is all he has left! Harry is all Sirius and I have left!”
“Stop shouting!” Molly hissed at him, casting a glance at the door. “Dumbledore has his reasons.”
“Dumbledore’s reasons have got James and Lily killed!” Remus spat back, perversely glad to have the anger burn off his despair. “Dumbledore’s reasons have got Sirius in Azkaban! I’ve had enough of Dumbledore’s reasons! I’ve had ENOUGH I tell you!”
Molly watched Remus silently until he ran out of words and simply stood, chest heaving.
“I won’t let them take Harry away,” he finally snarled, putting every fiber of resolution he had available to him into the words.
“I hope they don’t have to,” Molly sighed, pulling open the door. “Come down and eat something, Remus. You haven’t had anything since you got here.”
Remus trailed Molly downstairs, looking blankly at the piles of clutter that nine people living in the same house create. He wondered numbly what had happened to James and Lily’s smaller piles of clutter. What would happen to his and Sirius’ clutter.
Molly made Remus a sandwich in the kitchen and had just set the kettle to boiling when a shriek from upstairs rang through the house, followed by loud wailing.
“Oh honestly!” she pursed her lips.
“Should one of us check on them?” Remus asked.
“No, if they’re crying they’re fine,” Molly told him. “It’s when there’s a bang and then silence that…”
Another loud bang interrupted, followed by the predictable silence.
“Be right back!” Molly rushed out of the kitchen.
Remus shook his head, half amused in spite of himself. He picked some more at the sandwich Molly had made him, actually eating a few bites. Out in the front room he heard the laughter and running about of the other children. He slid out of his chair and went out to the other room, suddenly craving company.
In the front room he found Charlie watching Percy and the other of the youngest two Weasleys, Ron Remus thought, though it was hard to tell since the two babies wore the same hand-me-downs. Charlie was holding something in his lap and Percy was petting it cautiously.
“What’ve you got there?” Remus asked.
“I found a rat out in the garden,” Charlie explained. “I think somebody’s lost him, he’s very tame.”
Remus couldn’t stop the shudder that went through him at the thought of Peter, but he shook it off. There were millions of rats in the world, he told himself severely.
“Want to see a neat trick?” Charlie asked, glancing at Remus.
“Yes,” Percy nodded, squinting near-sightedly at the pet. Remus didn’t doubt the lad would need eyeglasses pretty soon.
“This is called Tonic Immobility, or TI,” Charlie explained, mostly for Remus’ benefit, or so it seemed to Remus. “If I pick up the rat by his neck ruff, he’ll go absolutely still, it releases some chemical in his brain or something like that, blisses them out.”
Charlie reached down and grasped the rat by his neck fur, and when he picked the rat up, its body dangled limply, its legs drawn up close to his body.
Remus froze. The rat looked exactly like Peter.
But Peter’s dead, his mind gabbled.
“He’s missing a toe,” Percy announced, peering closely at the rat’s underside.
We only found a finger of Pettigrew.
And suddenly the truth crashed down on Remus, driving all the breath out of his lungs.
“Do you want to try?” Charlie asked Percy, prepared to let go of the rat.
“No!” Remus shouted suddenly, making the children jump and startling Ron so much that he began crying. “Charlie, for heaven’s sake don’t let go of that rat!”
“Why?” Charlie stared up at him, more perplexed than scared. Remus decided that telling the child that he was holding a mass-murdering Death Eater was not the way to handle the situation.
“Just don’t,” he answered sharply. “I will be right back, but don’t let go no matter what.” Charlie hesitated, then nodded.
Remus dashed into the kitchen, looking frantically for a container and cursing the sluggishness of his mind. He finally grabbed Molly's glass cookie jar and upended the contents onto the counter before running back out to Charlie.
"Drop him in," Remus ordered Charlie, holding the jar out and the lid ready. Charlie released the rat and he plopped bonelessly into the jar. Remus slammed the lid down and felt suddenly limp with relief.
He could save Sirius. He could save Harry. He had to go.
"Tell your mother I've gone to see Dumbledore," Remus told Charlie hurriedly, who nodded. "Tell her I won't be back."
"He'll suffocate!" Percy yanked on Remus' robes and pointed at the jar, where Wormtail was scrabbling frantically at the glass.
"He won't be in there long," Remus told him, not bothering to filter the grimness out of his voice for the six-year-old. Remus Apparated without another word, leaving Ron still crying and the two other Weasley children staring at each other in confusion.
* * * * * *
"Remus," Frank said quietly. "I fail to see how this exonerates Sirius in any way."
"It's a rat in a jar, Lupin!" Moody roared. "We need real evidence, not rodents!"
"Is that Molly's cookie jar?" Arthur peered closer.
"It's not a rat," Remus interrupted. "It's Peter."
There was a moment of dead silence, followed by a cacophony of shouting.
"What is going on here?" Dumbledore interrupted, opening the door.
"Lupin's claiming that rat is Pettigrew!" Moody shouted in reply. "I thought you said Molly was keeping him out of the way!"
"Alastair!" Dumbledore cut him off sharply.
"I have something to tell you," Remus said tightly, stung by Moody's words and glaring at everyone else in the room. "I'm not crazy. This rat is Peter."
The others began talking again, but fell silent when Dumbledore ignored them. He approached the desk and leaned down to examine the rat in question. Wormtail redoubled his efforts to break loose when he saw Dumbledore, throwing himself against the glass and squeaking loud enough to be heard through the lid. At last Dumbledore straightened up and fixed Remus with an even gaze.
"Perhaps we had better hear your story," he said.
Remus confessed everything, outed himself as a werewolf and the other Marauders as Animagi. He could tell from the outraged and angry faces around him that none of them had known the truth and most didn't believe him now. Only Dumbledore looked unsurprised.
"We all underestimated Peter," he said, shaking his head. "Perhaps that is why he turned against us."
The others exchanged glances, still unwilling to believe.
"I can prove it." Remus reached over to lift the lid off the jar and plunged his hand inside, heedless of the wild claws and teeth sinking into his fingers and palm. He seized the rat by the ruff as he had seen Charlie do and Wormtail went limp as though a switch had been thrown. Remus lifted him out of the jar and let him dangle in the air.
"Cast Finite Incantem," he ordered. No one moved. "Do it!"
Frank shrugged and drew out his wand. He pointed it at the rat and cast as strong a spell as Remus could have wanted.
Peter Pettigrew materialized and Remus let go, letting him thump to the floor in a heap. No one else moved. Peter shook his head, still a bit dazed from the rat-chemical in his brain. He tensed as if about to leap, but then glancing around seemed to change his mind and cowered at Remus' feet.
"He was going to kill me," Peter whined to Remus, catching at his trouser leg. "I had to run, had to hide!"
"You’re a liar!" Remus shouted, kicking at Peter and sending him sprawling on his back. "You killed James! You framed Sirius!"
"No no!" Peter turned to Dumbledore for support, huddling on the ground pitifully. "Sirius was Secret Keeper! It was Sirius, Sirius!"
Peter leapt up suddenly, launching himself at Arthur, who was between him and the door.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Frank shouted, still holding his wand. Peter struck the ground like a board and Frank lowered his wand, looking pale and shaky.
"I'll get Fudge," Arthur murmured, slipping out the door. The others remained, staring down at Peter silently as his eyes darted back and forth with terror.
"Is it enough?" Remus asked Dumbledore, too exhausted to keep the pleading out of his voice.
"Frank," Dumbledore said in reply, "I think it's time you went to fetch Harry."